Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Happy festive season

Dear All,

I wish you a healthy and prosperous new year. May your study efforts be rewarded by a new European job.

The end of the year is usually traditionally the time to think about our future and our approach to all things. For me the last year was a period of sorrow and hibernation, but the sun is again shining, life keeps going on and I am now confident enough to promise for 2009 some new linguistic editions of your favorite book.

Enjoy your holidays but do not forget that only the well prepared will succeed.

Merry Christmas,



Simon said...

I've just discovered this very interesting blog. It's not easy to find accurate information about the EU recruitment system outside of the official sites.

One question I have for you Christos - do you think that the new system of competitions proposed for 2010 will improve the system?

My own personal experience of general competitions are that the selection criteria are set so low that many people apply, and then alot of emphasis is put on MCQs and verbal/numeric questions to eliminate as many candidates as possible. Would it not be better to have higher requirements (professional experience, certain diplomas etc) so that the pool of candidates will be smaller and questions can be set which will assess the applicants' potential ability to perform the job?

The Author said...

Hello Simon,

Concerning your first question, my appreciation for the new system is that it will be an improuvement, since it is more focused on competencies than on playing the European trivial pursuit ;-)

However on your second question, I have to disagree. The competition are increasingly specialised and the selection criteria a set at a correct level. However, the skewing of the process, is because of lot of people are applying for positions that they are not interested (i.e. that was the case on the last big secretaries competition, whereas the real "secretaries" were eliminated in the pre-selection, by "non-secretariat profile" people who scored higher in the MCQs).

IMHO higher qualifications are not always what is wanted 8-) There certain theories that instead of recruiting senior people with pre-conceived ideas, it is better to "build the EU official" from newly university graduates.

Finally the great diversity of the 27 different education systems, contributes greatly to the blurring of the process.

Anonymous said...

Hi Christos and well done!! I find your blog quite interesting since it is one of the few (reliable) sites that provide at least some info about the internal policies of the EU. I have passed the AD concour in Nov.06 but I have had, so far, only one interview which was not succesful. I know that by passing the concour you are not effectively guaranteed an EU job but...at least, EPSO or someone should try to inform all these poor laureates who sit like ducks waiting...and waiting...about their TRUE prospects of being employed, at least, in the long run....believe me, sometimes I really wonder whether it is worth the effort!!!


Geschenk68 said...

Hi you all
I do agree with Anonymous when he/she says EPSO should inform candidates beforehand about the "real" number of people Institutions will be recruiting, aside from the number of laureates on the RL. It is pointless (and discouraging in the long run) to be on a Reserve List and never been summoned up for an interview, or, worse of all, recruited.Some features/skills which I think are in commonplace for all profiles are for ex. fluency of English AND French, or having already worked with an Institution/Agency. Candidates who have got them both surely have some advantages in being recruited. Why EPSO does not state all these facts clearly?
Thanks to the Author for this useful blog

The Author said...

Hi Geschen68,

Thanks accepted with gratitude.

Reserve lists usually in the old system were created taking into account the needs of the institutions for the coming three years plus a small overhead for eventual drop-outs.

I do agree that this point has not been clearly communicated to laureats. Let's see what EPSO will do under the new system.

Concerning your second comment although in general it is true, nevertheless it is not a fact.

Indeed in the Commission (the biggest employer), we have many official languages but only three working languages (German, French, English) (which in really are two French and English, and where English is predominant). The distriction betwwen offical and working languages was created in order to avoid linguistic discrimination among nations and to achieve a more realist (vis-à-vis language use) working environment.

Having English and French at a very good level helps a lot, but it is not the only way to be recruited. Anyway once inside, people are offered generous language training, so even if you only know one of the three working languages (nowdays it is a requirement) you will very soon get into level.

Equally the fact that someone has worked inside the institutions, in my eyes constitute only a minor advantage (mainly in the sense of having an expose to multi-lingual & multi-cultural environment), since the types of jobs that you can do in the institutions are really numerous.

As closing words, let me say that the future experience does worth the pain (studying for the competition) and the waiting (in the reserve list).

Geschenk68 said...

Dear Christos,
I thank you for your reply: the fact that you are already working with an Institution gives you a better perspective about jobs/recruitment than mine (an outsider). I have just passed an open competition for AST3 last December, and I have been wondering how the recruiting process works: I have been reading that many laureates keep waiting without any news or feedbacks from the Institutions for months/even years. Some fear for us (laureates with "old test system")is that our lists will be soon replaced by the new ones (which also means more laureates available ) or even deleted (some lists are 4-5 years old).
To be honest, EPSO puts it immediately clear that there's no guarantee about final recruitment(and every candidate should be well aware of it), but, on the other hand, every candidate's ultimate goal is not just to read your own name on a RL.
In any case, I'll try to be positive!

The Author said...

Congratulations future colleague ;-)
A lot of people are waiting because everyone thinks that they are going to be the first recruits of the list.

Anyway statistics for laureates of the "old test system" shows that 80% of laureats are recruited. The remaining 20% is normally people who are not any more interested for this specific competition (i.a. they passed another competition, they moved to another continent, they found a better job, they got married).

Although the "old test system" reserve lists will eventually be abolished, I (NB: personal belive) do not expect this to happen fast. I estimate a period of three-five more years, before the closure of all old lists.

I do not think that the "new test system" will result in more candidates.
I.e. Old approach: If the institutions need ~30 lawyers in the coming 3 years, they will make a competition for ~45 laureats.
New approach: If the institutions need ~10 lawyers in the coming year, they will make a competition for ~15 laureats. So in the coming 3 years, the addition of laureats will be the same.

The gain will be shorter time from the needs definition to the actual establishment of the reserve list. This way both the institutions and the candidates are happy.

Geschenk68 said...

Dear Christos

thank you again for these enlightening replies of yours. Hopefully they will also be useful to some other fellow laureates.
I have got some further considerations to make:
1) regarding my RL (AST3 financial management), some days ago I took the trouble of confronting the name of the laureates present in my list against the web-based Commission Directory. That was to check up on the number of laureates already working with the EC. It emerged that some 40-45 persons are currently working in the EC alone (not to mention EP, Council and the other Institutions, which I could not check up on). From my viewpoint, I can say that RLs are thought to recruit new staff AND ABOVE ALL to stabilise temporary staff, who already know their work, are used to working in the EU institutions, etc.(provided they pass a competition, of course).
EPSO and the Institutions, before the start of every competition, have a rough view on the number of internal candidates which will end up on a RL, and calculate their needs of outsider candidates accordingly.
I know I might be wrong, but this is the only explanation regarding the number of laureates on a RL which springs to mind....

2)Some weeks ago I managed to get hold of a list of vacancies notices for all staff of the institutions published on Intracomm. Since it states that these positions are open to EU officials only, is it any useful sending a CV+motivation letter to the contact person by an outsider? these job descriptions require experience/knowledge/linguistic skills which are peculiar to EU officials only and I have been wondering whether sending a CV would be a waste of time or not...
Bye for now and thanks for yours comments

The Author said...

Hi Geschenk68,

Statistically it is proved that internal candidates have more change to see their name in the reserve list, since they speak the same language, they have understand the EU institutions mindset and they have, in principle, proven that they can adapt to a multi-lingual and multi-language environment.

In my view, internal vacancies are indeed "internal". Although you can "study" them to see what type of different job profiles exists inside the house, my personal assessment is that you will not gain a lot if you sent your CV to any of these opening.

Nevertheless, I would not discourage you if you insist in doing so, but the changes are really slim.

Geschenk68 said...

I have one further comment to make: what seems unclear to me is the fact that this year EPSO is organising yet another CAST ( for example the profile of Financial assistant). Since in 2010 there are many laureates in the new RLs at present waiting for recruitment, I do not understand whether there is a quota of Temporary Agents/Contractual Agents versus Officias the Institutions must have (for ex. 1 CA every 3 Permanent Officials) or EPSO organises the CAST on a regular basis every 3 years regardless (and also in order to cater for Executive Agencies staffing needs).
One Question:
Are you going to publish a new edition of your book in the near future taking account of the new EPSO recruiting process?
Thanks for your attention

The Author said...

Hi Geschenk68,

Contractual Agents and Officials have two completely different career tracks, and that why they will be new CAST selections in the future.

There will be a new edition of my book in the near future, but even the current edition is actually speaking of competencies and the final message is not different from the one that is exposed in the current edition.

One extra reason why I wait before publishing a new edition is that I write is what is actually happening in the exam room and not just what EPSO had forseen to test.

My book has been written in order to be an affortable (price wise) and honest coach (by including real advice from people who had both sit exams and had been jury members) to all candidates.

Geschenk68 said...

Hi again,
Once more many thank for your comments on holding on as I have being waiting in my RL for an interview since last December.
I'd like to have an opinion of yours regarding the proposed "freeze" on recruitment for year 2011 (which is currently being discussed at institutional level). Would it mean that no new posts would be created or also (and more dreadful for us still awaiting for recruitment) that there wouldn't be any turnover amongst officials (ex. an official retires, and no-one takes his/her place)? The Council, in its latest memorandum, for instance states that: "The Council also accepted the conversion of 2 AST posts into appropriations for contract agents" Does it mean that places for official are being reserved for CA? Please fell free to comment on this post as my reasoning might be slightly "out of focus". I am trying to figure out what might come next for laureates and regarding the planned EPSO competitions
...and happy holidays if you are on vacation.

The Author said...

Hi Geschenk68,

Just back from holidays due to permenance reasons.

During the discussions, or to be precise negotiations, that are a lot of rumours.

The facts are that HR are working on a zero growth scenario, since last year. Of course the economic crisis has made things more difficult.

However, and it is a big however, the Parliament recently got one hundrend new posts due to the Lisbon treaty as well as the newly created instution EEAS got their fair share of around 80 new posts.

Things are difficult but not impossible to get a job.

The idea of the new EPSO competitions is to have fresh candidates, since the RL will in principle only be valid for one year (that's the big diffirence with the old type competitions).

By definition places for officials cannot be reserved for CA, although temporal arrangements could appear. HR is really as imaginative and flexible as lawyers :-)

Enjoy your holidays.

Geschenk68 said...

Dear Christos
I am writing to you back again and hoping this post of mine will be useful to some other "would-be officials" who read this blog of yours.
Some weeks ago I noticed that EPSO announced the extentions of a large number of Reserve Lists, many of them are several years old (5-6 years): it means that there are still several laureates waiting for recruiment after 3-4 years of being laureates, does not it?
Since EPSO is currently organising competitions on a cycle-basis every year, I really do not get the point of having yet another reserve list for, say, AST in accounting/finance (a new competition has been planned by EPSO starting next December) when there are currently two EU-15 lists open for recruitment for the same profile: AST/52/08 and AST/7/05.Not taking into account the EU-10 and EU-2 lists for the same profile. What I've just said is also valid for the RL for AD in economics and/or Human resouces.
Does it mean that these RL are just kept open but no laureate is at present available for recruitment or the laureates left on the list do not satisfy any of the skills/qualifications Heads of Unit look for at the moment(therefore the laureates in those lists faces the prospect of keeping their wait and at the same time run the risk of being superseded by the laureates from the new lists)?.
I think this is a nagging question that many "old lists" laureates like me currently face...
bye and good festive days

The Author said...

Hi Geschenk68,

Old RLs have been prolonged because there are still collegues in these lists. However their individual profiles could vary a lot from the "typical" (if any) i.e. economist. So, may be the HoUs are not happy. In addition, some of the 2005, 2008 laureats where blocked due to new MS quotas (which now seized to exist).

From the point of view of the institutions, the more choice the better.

Unfortnately the only good point for laureats is that the RLs are still valid. So a little bit of lobbying will not heart -)

Anonymous said...

Christos, you wrote:

"IMHO higher qualifications are not always what is wanted 8-) There certain theories that instead of recruiting senior people with pre-conceived ideas, it is better to "build the EU official" from newly university graduates."

So there actually IS age discrimination happening in the concours?



The Author said...

Hello Toto,

My experience shows that there is NO age discrimination.

I have cases of 60+ colleagues getting an EU job.

My comment was linked to practices done by some consultancies (i.a. McKinsey & Company).